February 19, 2011hkalternate reality, community, cross media, social impact, viralNo Comments

If you ever thought about what Al Gore is producing besides saving the planet from becoming a CO2 Greenhouse then see the newest spawn “BAR KARMA”, a brave attempt to evolve TV with interactivity on his channel


“A guy walks into a bar…” – what may sound like a the beginning of a joke may evolve into a puzzling game with fate. Or a vaudeville show of history´s protagonists getting a quick whiskey for free before they continue their own chosen path – maybe without alterations. The story got kicked of in January and even the first Episode “Once Upon A Timeline” is more than a Teaser, but not enough for a Pilot. The crucial point and focus of innovation seems the story itself, which is the wise or courageous part of the concept. YOU as an audience have the chance to vote and write (!) storylines, plots, details which may end up quickly in the weekly show.

Will Wright, legendary video game designer (The Sims, Spore) delivered the story engine through which the community may assemble and reiterate the branching events. This goes as far as coming up with ideas for the drinks being served (by the way, it´s about a Bar…). You may call this massively crowdsourcing, you may call this a lack of ideas (except the compelling initial one) but the power of the concept my literally lay in the hands of the formerly passive “recipients” of a TV series. They may decide now. If the Bar Karma fanbase will become more creative than the best writers in the booming and innovative TV-Series business outperforming Hollywood is still written in the stars…

It will need a lot of good Karma to perform as an emotionally binding cast with all the “surprise guests” which will walk though the front door. Main character Doug Jones (Matthew Humphreyes) comes across convincingly and likeable, William Sanderson as James Aanon is more than a safe play as an anchor of atmosphere concerning his track as an actor – only Cassie Howarth will have to earn her spurs to avoid the trap of attractiveness. The quite blunt product placement of the sponsor Mazda might be unavoidable, but it could happen with more decency. I never liked Series which seemed to have the look of a commercial (even if that look just pops up temporarily) – I makes one feel uneasy about who is in charge for the story and this is most precarious if you have an open, innovative format.

But the overall atmosphere and rythm of “BAR KARMA” is electrifying as a short format and it could turn out as a gem stone in how the fate of entertainment can be altered by single minds hand in hand with jumps in technology, evoking the reaction of more minds. The Swedish participatory TV drama “The truth about Marika” which was awarded the International Interactive Emmy Award in 2008 descends from a similar spirit and is a precursor of formats which blend online and offline, truth and fiction. is appearantly also involved in Augmented Reality Game projects like “The Big Plot” (…so let´s see the things to come…


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